Have you ever felt so happy until a friend or relative told you about her life, and your whole mood changed drastically? Or have you been in a bad mood, and a happy song started playing on the radio, and suddenly, you were dancing and feeling good? If so, it’s called emotional contagion, and in today’s post, you will learn how to identify it and protect yourself from it.
In short, emotional contagion happens when you or someone around you starts mimicking your expressions, feelings, and body language. And before you freak out, do not, because it is natural, and it means that you can feel empathy. However, it can pose a challenge when you do not know how to protect yourself from mimicking negative emotions.
According to emerging research, emotional contagion is closely linked to the mirror neuron system. This explanation comes from the study of macaque monkeys’ brains. Researches discovered that some neurons got active when monkeys did something and watched others do the same.
Experts confirm that a similar process takes place in humans. They think that it includes physical and emotional actions, which explains why we can feel empathy.
What Are the Stages of Emotional Contagion?
Sometimes, recognizing that someone is influencing your emotions can be difficult because humans tend to involve too deep in their surroundings. One of the best ways to prevent it is by knowing how emotional contagion works and its three stages, mimicry, feedback, and contagion.
Mimicry is the first stage, and it begins when you subconsciously recognize the other person’s emotions. If you want to identify this stage, be aware of the subtle cues your subconscious receives.
This stage manifests through body language.
Can you recall a moment where you copied the expressions, poses, or gestures of a person? If so, then you were in stage number one of the whole emotional contagion experience.
Another example is when a friend came to you worried, but you stayed calm. What happened is that the person adopted your mood, and magically her mood was matching yours.
The second stage is about turning that mimicry into an experience. In other words, it’s the transition between copying another person’s gestures and body language and owning those emotions and expressions.
For example, let’s say you just met a friend who is dealing with chronic depression. After mimicking her posture and facial expressions, you start seeing and feeling the world like your friend.
And last but not least, we have the last stage, contagion, which is the experience you had. In short, you made your friend’s emotions yours, and you experienced that moment based on how your friend was feeling.
How to Protect Yourself from Negative Emotions?
The first step is to be logical and recognize when someone is affecting your mood. A great strategy is to ask yourself: How this situation relates to my beliefs and feelings? Answering this question will help you understand your position regarding a given situation. Let’s say your friend is sad because her favorite baseball team lost the game, and you notice yourself picking up her mood. Then, you ask yourself the question, and suddenly you remember that you do not like baseball, so why be sad about it?
If it is a situation that affects someone close to you, the best is to stay positive and try to influence the other person’s mood. Remember that first, emotional contagion works both ways, so if you are calm and at peace, the other person will eventually follow your lead. Second, staying negative during difficult times will only make it worse.
Another thing you can do is to surround yourself with things and people that make you happy. That way your mood will be influenced by them! If there are not things or people around you that make you happy, smile and see how others start mimicking you and stress leaves your body.